The Films of James Foley
At Close Range
Who's That Girl
After Dark, My Sweet
Glengarry Glen Ross (May 16/09)
Based on David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross follows the duplicitous comings and goings of an office full of shifty real-estate hustlers (including Al Pacino's Ricky Roma, Ed Harris' Dave Moss, and Jack Lemmon's Shelley Levene) over the course of a hectic 24-hour period - with the admittedly thin storyline set into motion by a slick upper-management type's proclamation that the men will lose their jobs if their work doesn't improve. There's little doubt that Alec Baldwin's utterly electrifying turn as the aforementioned upper-management type proves instrumental in Glengarry Glen Ross' efforts at initially capturing the viewer's attention, yet it's just as clear that the immensely engrossing nature of the actor's all-too-short appearance temporarily infuses the proceedings with an anti-climactic vibe that persists for a good half hour or so. It's worth noting, however, that the movie remains surprisingly engaging even through its less-than-enthralling stretches, with Mamet's typically hypnotic dialogue and the uniformly Oscar-worthy performances (as well as James Foley's sporadically fluid directorial choices) effectively staving off the filmed-play atmosphere one might've anticipated. The office robbery that comes about halfway through marks an obvious turning point within Glengarry Glen Ross, as the various characters subsequently grow increasingly caustic to one another and the film adopts a tone of urgency that becomes impossible to resist. And while the movie's obvious highlight comes with Roma's brutal dressing-down of Kevin Spacey's officious manager, Mamet's screenplay affords virtually all of the actors their moment in the sun - with Lemmon's sad-sack of a character ultimately standing as the film's emotional center (ie despite his exceedingly slimy actions, Levene becomes a figure worthy of the viewer's sympathy). The end result is a compelling, thoroughly quotable piece of work that generally lives up to its reputation as a modern classic, and it's certainly not a stretch to label it the most effective big-screen translation of a Mamet stage play.
Perfect Stranger (May 17/11)
There's little doubt that Perfect Stranger, for the most part, resembles one of those made-for-Lifetime thrillers that seem to crop up on a weekly basis, as the movie has been infused with an atmosphere of almost stunning artificiality that's exacerbated by director James Foley's disappointingly tame sensibilities (ie the lack of sex and violence perpetuates the film's TV-ready feel). The thin storyline follows ace reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry) as she goes undercover to prove that her childhood friend was murdered by Bruce Willis' Harrison Hill, with complications ensuing as Rowena finds herself surrounded by suspects and shady figures - including her off-kilter assistant at the paper (Giovanni Ribisi's Miles Haley) and her on-again-off-again boyfriend (Gary Dourdan's Cameron). It's clear immediately that Foley has his work cut out for him in terms of capturing the viewer's interest, as Perfect Stranger suffers from a disastrously unconvincing opening half hour that's reflected in everything from the forced-sounding dialogue to the over-the-top performances to the laughable portrayal of Rowena's online chat sessions. And while Willis' arrival at around the 30 minute mark temporarily injects the proceedings with some life, Perfect Stranger has been saddled with a hopelessly sluggish and curiously uneventful midsection that predominantly feels as though it's spinning its wheels - with the inclusion of one or two genuinely engrossing sequences (eg Rowena attempts to shut off her computer before Harrison sees what she's been up to) unable to compensate for the pervasively stale vibe. The movie admittedly does conclude on an unexpectedly positive note - ie the climactic twist is quite impressive in its audacity - yet it's ultimately impossible to label Perfect Stranger as anything more than a forgettable misfire.